Boston College grad, Maria Tecce, turns jazz singer

Alexander Stevens

How did a nice girl from Wellesley end up pursuing a career as an American jazz singer in Ireland?

It wasn’t really a plan, says Maria Tecce, speaking via Skype from her home in Dublin. When she graduated from Boston College, she seemed headed for a safe career as an English teacher.

“I figured I could spent 40 years living in a Victorian house, working in an English department and having the occasional inter-departmental fling,” she says with a laugh. “But I wasn’t ready for that. So I hit the road.”

She’s not kidding — a road that led her to stints in Vermont, Wyoming, California and then Europe, including, for the past 10 years, the Emerald Isle. It’s a long and winding road that now leads home, when she performs her jazz show “Strapless” at Scullers in Boston on Oct. 27.

There’s a multicultural soup of influences behind every note she sings. She’s an American of Italian descent who once sang Irish music, before releasing her new CD of Spanish/Argentinian-influenced jazz songs.

It’s all delivered in a sultry way that tends to heat up critics who describe her performance with words like “sensual” and “seductive.” She’s a vision on stage, often performing in a vibrant red dress to deliver this spicy Spanish jazz.

Commenting on her alluring press photography, Tecce, 36, credits talented photographers, and then says, “I clean up good. But I don’t always want to look lovely and soft and attractive on stage. It depends on the story I’m telling” with the song.

Besides, she just thinks something chemical happens when performers get the chance to entertain an audience.

“Being on stage brings people alive,” she says. “They shine on stage. There’s something that glows from within. I just find brilliant performers to be irresistibly attractive.”

Tecce’s chemistry with the audience seems to be working. Career highlights include opening for Dionne Warwick and a “terrifying, astonishing, exciting” performance for “Jazz at Lincoln Center.” She also recently played four weeks of “Strapless” at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

For the Scullers gig, she’ll be backed by a trio — piano, double bass and guitar. And the concert will feature songs off her third and most recent album, “Viva!”, which was inspired by the works of Pablo Neruda.

She’s carving out her own niche in the expansive world of jazz. She doesn’t perform experimental jazz — “I don’t have that kind of understanding of the music,” she says — but you also won’t hear her sing “Fly Me to the Moon” or “The Lady is a Tramp.” She’s more fond of songs such as her Spanish bosa nova take on “The Man I Love.”

She’s not a trained jazz vocalist, but she grew up in a household where being a musician was as natural as breathing. Her mom was a classically trained pianist who loved the music of Cole Porter, George Gershwin, and Rodgers and Hammerstein. Tecce studied to be a concert flutist, but she easily made the switch to sax when they wouldn’t let her in the school jazz band with her flute.

It was all part of a childhood in Wellesley that she seems to remember fondly.

“Wellesley has a reputation as a well-off town, but we lived a middle-class life near the Natick line,” she says. “It was great for us — very rural and a very normal neighborhood. I’d go out and catch frogs. I was a real tomboy.”

But wanderlust would prevent her from settling in Wellesley.

“I adore travel,” she says.

Given her tendency to move on, it surprises even Tecce that she’s settled in Ireland for a decade.

“What attracted me to stay was the support the government gives the arts in Ireland,” she says. “That’s something I’d never experienced before. That’s changed recently. But the fact that there’s any money at all that’s accessible... it’s so refreshing.”

Her dream now is to tour “Strapless.” She prefers bigger venues where she can perform the full-blown show that gets very theatrical, combining her interests in both music and acting.

It may be difficult to carve out a career as a jazz singer in Dublin, but her month-long run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival reminded her why she’s pursuing this career.

Her band secretly got a black and white photo of the four of them, framed it and propped it up on the stage on the last night of their Edinburgh run. Tecce saw it when she took the stage.

“I just lost it,” she says. “It was so beautiful. I just thought, ‘This is why I do this.’ The people you work with, the relationships you make. I’m just an old romantic.”

Maria Tecce

Scullers in Boston

Oct. 27

Tickets: $22

Call: 617-562-4111